Human Rights Violations in the Philippines: A Recurring Nightmare

The recent spate of extrajudicial killings and illegal arrests in the Philippines is truly a worrisome development for all human rights advocates. Willem Geertman and Romulado Palispis, both development workers and activists in Central Luzon, were gunned down separately in just three days by men widely suspected to be members of the military’s death squads. Another activist, Agnes Tadeo-Mesina, was arrested while meeting with a partylist congressman

Since it was placed in power exactly two years ago, the government of President Benigno Aquino III has stacked up 96 cases of extrajudicial killings (EJKs) that include Geertman, according to the human rights watchdog Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights). Of this number, 43 were rights workers in civil society organizations (CSOs), while the rest were farmers, members of indigenous tribes and environmental activists.
The Hong Kong Campaign for the Advancement of Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (HKCAHRPP) fears that these dramatic cases may signal the resurgence of grave human rights violations against political activists in the country, and aggravates the existing culture of impunity for violators under the current dispensation. The situation is made all the more reprehensible by the fact that the fresh rash of human righs violations occurred just a month after the Philippine government was rigorously queried by the United Nations’ (UN) in its Universal Periodic Review in Geneva

The new President’s touting of a “Daang Matwid” (Righteous Path) is turning rapidly into a swing to the far-Right, as his government sheds off all pretensions of being different than that of his predecessor. More and more, it is adopting methods of dealing with development workers and activists that are grimly reminiscent of iron-fisted security policies under Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. In fact, Aquino’s national security plan called “Oplan Bayanihan” (Mutual Help) is but a rehash of of Arroyo’s “Oplan Bantay-Laya” (Freedom Watch), which saw hundreds of activists and media practitioners liquidated by military death squads and called the attention of then-UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston

That the current President’s own father, the anti-Marcos politician Benigno Aquino, Jr., was himself a victim of extrajudicial execution seems to have left no mark on the younger Aquino’s human rights policies. His government’s official pronouncements on the recent killings have not only been to deny the involvement of state agents in these crimes, but even to dare outraged activist organizations to provide proof of such involvement. Aside from reinforcing impunity, such inappropriate responses reveal an utter lack of accountability on the part of the government, and is tantamount to reneging on its essential obligations to various UN human rights statutes emphasizing the primary role of state actors in seeking redress for victims

HKCAHRPP is calling on all human rights advocates to continually monitor the situation in the Philippines and campaign for an end to to extrajudicial killings and other state-sponsored violence against the Filipino people. We must take the Aquino government to task for blatantly disregarding prima facie evidence on Geertman’s killing, which was caught by CCTV camera. Accountability must replace impunity in the government’s dealing with perpetrators, and this can only be accomplished through our renewed vigilance and committed human rights advocacy

We demand on the Aquino government to respect human rights, speedily investigate violations including those under the previous regime and prosecute state agents who are culpable. We urge it to stop suppressing political dissent through military means, and instead respond to the long-running demands of various sectors of society for better governance, social justice and genuine peace. #

10 July 2012

Hong Kong Campaign for the Advancement of
Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines
c/o ASA, No. 4 Jordan Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong SAR
Tel. (852) 98105070, 97585935        Fax. (852) 27354559
E-mail: [email protected]

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